Jan 20, 2015

Ice rescue training aims to save victims and rescuers

Search-and-rescue team members from Park, Washakie and Fremont Counties took part in ice rescue training over the weekend. Here, during Sunday's hands-on training, a participant is ‘rescued’ in Buffalo Bill Reservoir by holding on to a hard plastic float ring pulled in by another participant. In the background, other class members use ice picks to punch another hole. Photo by Ilene Olson
The Park County Sheriff’s Office hosted a two-day ice rescue course for search-and-rescue personnel Saturday and Sunday.

The training focused on the skills necessary to conduct open ice self-rescues effectively as well as the rescue of victims who have become trapped by falling through the ice.

Classroom training Saturday included sessions on rescue skills and techniques such as pre-planning, evaluation of the rescue environment, equipment, rope rescue, personal safety and self-rescue, as well as ice processes and properties.

Day two took place at the Buffalo Bill Reservoir, where students watched and conducted open-ice rescues using techniques taught in the class. The course, “Ice Rescue Technician,” was conducted by representatives of Rescue 3 International of Wilton, Calif., and was attended by search and rescue personnel from Park, Washakie and Fremont counties.

On the left, rescuers examine a buoyant sling after using it on a fellow classmate. The sling is placed under the victim’s arms, the ends are drawn together with a rope, then rescuers pull the victim to safety. In the center, a rescuer throws a hard plastic ring to a victim before pulling him out. And at right, a class member uses a pontoon raft to navigate over water and ice. Photo by Ilene Olson
Instructors were Dick Rice, owner of Alaska Rescues in Anchorage, Alaska, and K.C. Bess, who works and resides in Jackson. Both are certified contract instructors for Rescue 3 International.

“Every agency that anticipates an ice rescue should prepare,” Sheriff Scott Steward said in a prepared statement.

Steward, who attended the classroom training, added, “It is often the quality of the training that determines the victim’s chances for survival, while at the same time ensuring the rescuers’ safety. This training is a good start, but one-time training isn’t enough. Ongoing practice is vital.

“These two elements, combined with actual calls, give our search and rescue personnel the ability to conduct a safe and effective rescue when the time comes,” he said.

 Rescue 3 International, a recognized leader in ice, water and flood rescue in 33 countries, was founded in 1979 after a California search and rescue team nearly lost one of its own during a water rescue. It provides flood, water, ice, and rope rescue training with an emphasis keeping rescuers from becoming victims.

The Park County Search and Rescue Unit is comprised of 25-30 local men and women volunteers from all walks of life who are ready at a moment’s notice to respond and provide state-of-the-art rescue techniques to those in need.

To learn more about the unit, go to the Park County Sheriff’s webpage.

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